Rusty after 9 years away from architecture


I’m hoping for some advice on how to get my architecture career back on track after spending such a long time away from it.

To make a long story short, I had to take care of my father’s business when he was diagnosed with a complicated illness about nine years ago. Both the company’s situation and my father’s health proved to be in worse shape than anticipated, which is why it took me so long to be able to return to architecture. During that time I also created a small business of my own which generates enough income for me to survive, but it’s not at all related to architecture which is what I really want to do.

I am now in the process of looking for job opportunities and realized that I have (almost) nothing to show in terms of architecture work for the past nine years! The cover letter that I’m writing is mostly focused on my life experience rather than my architecture skills, etc.

I hold a B.Arch and a M.Arch, and had eight years of work experience before I left. I was very thorough with code research and proficient in auto cad, rhino, revit, etc., but now it all feels so distant and unfamiliar (except for cad, that will never go away apparently!)

Any suggestions on how to go about it?

Feb 21, 18 2:32 am

Use your experience in successfully turning around or saving Dad's business (assuming you did) as evidence of your maturity, flexibility, managerial ability, etc.  Any architectural firm would be idiots not to want someone who can run with the ball even when the game is something they haven't trained for.  Don't just try to pick up where you left off.  Use the last nine years as an asset and not just some gap in your resume that you have to explain away.

Assuming you are pushing 40 years old, some kind of age discrimination may present itself, but there's nothing you can do about that.  Don't seem to be defensive about it.  The firms that only want bouncy little kids won't be a good fit anyway.  You have a very good excuse for your absence;  not just some kid taking time out to "find myself".  You're a grownup who has tasted a little bit of hell and come through it.

Also, try to hang on to your side business as an economic insurance policy.  The building cycle is nine years old and probably getting a little over ripe in a lot of markets.

Good luck and please keep us posted.

Feb 21, 18 7:15 am

Think if you have 8 years experience you should be good to go - your previous networks are great starting points, university colleagues, past practice colleagues or local community review panels. The small business has given you some management skills. When you left your previous architectural practice what were your achievements?

I sense this is more of a confidence issues - with your cover letter focus firstly on the strengths that you feel contribute to the practice you are applying to demonstrating how you both share the same ethos/values toward work.  Discuss your skills in the context of the projects you did.

You may find it useful to think of the following acronym: ‘Context, Action, Result’ = CAR 

C = context - briefly describe the situation 

A = action - state your role, what you did, why you did it and how you did it 

R = result - describe what the outcome was, and how this was evidenced 

Feb 21, 18 7:26 am
Thanks for your comments, I will consider them and keep you posted.
Feb 21, 18 11:11 am
I am over 40 now and I agree with Geezertect in that no firm really looks for anyone who has a tendency to leave after a year, so that works to my advantage.
I think you’re right, TED, it may be a matter of lack of confidence in some of the skills (mostly the technical ones) that I used to have. I don’t want to be misleading in my resume.
Feb 21, 18 12:25 pm

Perhaps go for LEED AP to get back in the swing - Architecture hasn't changed since Palladio so don't worry!


That's right. Don't be misleading, but don't be defensive either. Anybody can learn software and new codes. Maturity is a lot harder to come by, and you already have it.


See if your contacts are still in architectural field and are drowning in work, and offer them some help, you would be able to get your confidence back, refresh what you already know, and have a good starting point to follow up what you have missed.

Another way to  approach this, see if you have a skill that you have, is needed and the market is lacking, it could be a good starting point for  your presentation for the players in the industry

Feb 25, 18 3:46 am

It's humbling and comforting to know I'm not alone, and going through some of the same issues as c...-007.

I returned to college for some grad school work in 2007 and haven't made it back in to the industry, because of many life circumstances - children, extended family issues (deaths, illnesses...), divorce- not trying to pitty party this.  I'm 6 months past the worst of it and getting back to job hunting.

I know this might not be what you're interested in, but I've been looking at a few alternate but industry related careers- construction management (even as a project engineer), building inspector (ICC certs), plans examiners (ICC certs), Facilities management, Project manager for development and even property management.  I've been getting through certifications and I've had some interviews, but no offers yet.  I believe there is age discrimination going on, but what can you do as its very hard to prove.

I'm hopeful of finding a good fit and I'm sure you will also. 

Best of luck.

Feb 25, 18 7:35 pm

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